(Reuters) – The National Hockey League said on Thursday it decided to postpone its 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend as the COVID-19 pandemic would prevent fan participation at the two signature events.
The outdoor Winter Classic regular season game was scheduled to be played on Jan. 1 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while Sunrise, Florida was set to host All-Star Weekend from Jan. 29-30.
“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said in a news release.
“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.”
The Minnesota Wild were scheduled to face the St. Louis Blues on New Year’s Day at the home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.
The Florida Panthers were set to host All-Star Weekend, a two-day event featuring an All-Star Game, skills competition and other entertainment for fans.
The league said it intends to return to both Minnesota and Florida for these signature events in the near future.
The NHL, which concluded its virus-interrupted season in late September, just over three months later than normal, also said the postponement of the signature events does not change their target date of Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)